Can Egyptian Paste Techniques (Faience) Be Used For 3D Printed, Solid Free-form Fabrication of Ceramics?

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Fac of Arts Creative Ind and Education


Current research in the field of 3D printing concentrates on creating functional materials. This research project will develop a process based upon historic Egyptian Faience techniques, which will enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a material which they are familiar with and can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

Faience was the first glazed ceramic material invented by man. Originating in the 5th Millennium BC, Egyptian Faience was not made from clay (but instead composed of quartz and alkali fluxes) and is distinct from Italian Faience or Majolica, which is a tin, glazed earthenware. (The earliest Faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between them, and the colouring material was usually copper). The researchers believe that it possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience. It is the self-glazing properties that are of interest for this research. In the 1960's Wulff in 'Egyptian Faience a possible survival in Iran' postulated that the technique he observed in Qom, described as cementation glazing, could have been a method used by the Egyptians from 4,000 BC. In order to glaze the unfired object, it is buried in a glazing powder, in a sagger (a protective vessel of fireclay to support and protect delicate objects) then fired. During firing, a glaze is formed directly by chemical reaction on the surface of the body but the glaze mass as a whole does not melt.

Modern techniques employ 3D printing to form physical models by a variety of methods from a virtual digital file. An additive layer manufacturing process is employed to deposit a variety of materials: commonly UV polymer resins, hot melted 'abs' plastic and inkjet binder or laser sintered, powder materials. These techniques have previously been known as rapid prototyping (RP). With the advent of better materials and equipment some RP of real materials is now possible. These processes are increasingly being referred to as solid 'free-form fabrication' (SFF) or additive layer manufacture. This research will interrogate three primary methods of glazing used by the Egyptians. Application glazing: similar to modern glazing techniques where glaze slurry is applied to a body by brushing or dipping. Efflorescent glazing: where the glazing materials in the form of water soluble salts are mixed with the body. As the body dries, the salts migrate to the surface forming a layer, which fuses to a glaze when fired. The third method is cementation glazing. We will use these techniques as a basis for developing contemporary alternatives and will try and replicate the chemistry of some of the original recipes, however the use of modern materials will give more consistent and reproducible results. The research team will observe, record and evaluate a group of art/design/craft practitioners who will be selected as case studies and co-contributors to the project. They will test and help define the parameters of the process working iteratively with the research team, culminating in new creative work for exhibition.

In Egypt, from the New Kingdom onward, the colour palette of Egyptian Faience was extended and a new 4th method of manufacture was developed. The related PhD student will concentrate upon this 4th method of Egyptian Faience more like a glass, where the body is entirely homogeneous without a separate coating of glaze. The surface was generally but not always glossy. The glassy phase results from the addition of coloured frit to the Faience mixture. (Frit, a mixture of glass ingredients that have been incompletely reacted together, is a material in its own right and can be used as a pigment or for making objects). The applicants believe that the addition of coloured frit may enable an Egyptian Faience like material suitable for 3D printing with a greatly increased colour palette.

Planned Impact

The proposed research will make a significant contribution to the area of 3D printing of ceramic materials for industry, artists, craftspeople, designers and academia. Particularly the free-form fabrication community in which there is particular interest in printing ceramics for industrial applications and the nascent open source hardware/hack/fablab communities. This research offers the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - somthing that is impossible with current technology.

The impact of the research undertaken by the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is evidenced in the recent RCUK report* where additive manufacturing is highlighted: "mass production has made desirable objects affordable. Problems arise however, from the fact the more we can have the more we want". The report goes on to quote the CFPR as moving between quadrants of industry and the visual arts. It highlights the Centre's work in 3D printed ceramics for the arts and its industrial potential through ceramic bone replacement in surgery, and the fact that 6 companies are keen for commercial exploitation. These companies are Viridis 3D LLC, Johnson Matthey, ZCorp, Renishaw, Denby Ceramics and Roland DG who have all undertaken commercial research contracts or collaborated over government funded projects with CFPR in the last 12 months.

In the wider academic arts context there are in excess of 4,000 undergraduate arts ceramic courses in the USA alone and a thriving academic community across Europe and the Pacific Rim, providing a clear academic market for this research. Many of these institutions are investing in 3D printing technologies, in particular 3D powder printers. There is a demand for the use of ceramic materials in 3D printing, as users can directly produce one-off bespoke artefacts without resorting to costly time consuming conventional modelling and mould making techniques. Egyptian Faience has always been a craft process of interest to the academic arts community and is in wide use, therefore this new process will have direct application and influence for this community.

3D printing has yet to make the leap to mass market technology, the Economist, Independent, Guardian and New York Times have all predicted this will happen in the near future. As its potential to use a wider range of materials expands, its potential audience will expand exponentially. It is for this reason that Hewlett Packard has been the first large corporation to enter the market in the last 12 months. The use of ceramic materials to print artefacts clearly demonstrates 3D printing's ability to become a mass-market process. Therefore this research has long-term implications for IP and commercial exploitation. The applicants will actively strengthen the industry partnerships built through previous research, in order to bring to market any research results and strengthen the UK economy.

*'Big Ideas for the Future: UK Research that will have a profound effect on our future' - page 108
Title Case study with Glenys Barton 
Description Glenys Barton chose to recreate a previously created medal of two females, realised by taking examples from the earlier works and using 3D scanning and 3D mesh manipulation software to generate a new work that could only be constructed by 3D printing using an Egyptian faience efflorescence body. The finished piece is a turquoise copper carbonate glazed medal with two extreme relief heads on the obverse and a negative of this design on the reverse. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Proof that the process can be used by artists and craftspeople in a real time context. 
Title Featured Artist Demonstration: Centre for Fine Print Research 
Description Stephen Hoskins and David Huson undertook a residency at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York to demonstrate methods of 3D printing ceramics using two types of patented materials. A powder deposition process that uses an ink jet binder to glue the individual powder ceramics together, which is fired in the same manner as conventional ceramics. And a self-glazing once fired 3D printed ceramic process based upon ancient Egyptian Faience, the worlds first glazed ceramics from the fifth century BCE. This is a pressure driven process that lays down a continuous bead of ceramic clay, which can be fired in 10 minutes in a conventional microwave. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Museum visitors were invited to the Open Studios to meet these artists and learn more about the ceramic 3D printing process. Researchers from the Metropolitan Museum, New York invited Hoskins and Huson to present their findings. 
Title Richard Slee Volkswagon Beetle Scarab 
Description Richard's concept was to take the iconic Ancient Egyptian symbol of a scarab beetle often found as an example of ancient faience and replace it with a model of a Volkswagen Beetle. A plastic kit model of a Volkswagen Beetle was assembled and then 3D scanned, this was modified and adjusted in 3D software to facet the surface to give a jewel like effect when cementation glazed with a dark blue copper carbonate glaze. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This artefact demonstrates the ability for a practising artist and craftsperson to create a small object that is 3D printed and then fired using the cementation process. During this project it was discovered that artefacts can only successfully made to a very small size. The result is a collection of small Volkswagon battle scarabs. 
Description The research team have developed four methods of 3D printed faience as anticipated in the funding bid.

Application glazing: in some senses the most successful aspect of the project, it was found if the object was first printed and glazed in a porcelain material previously developed by the team. then the object was dipped in a Faience slip the object would effloresce and produce a self glazed surface which could then be fired and a range of faience surfaces achieved as found in early Egyptian faience. This also may be seen as a cross between application and efflorescent glazing.

Efflorescent glazing: This predictably proved the most difficult to achieve, due to the variable ability of the salts migrating through the printed layers. However it has been proved possible in a research context to produce a 3D printed once fired glazed ceramic artefact.

Cementation glazing, again this aspect of the bid was very successful. This aspect of the work was primarily undertaken by the PhD student under the guidance of the team. Having researched the available material at British Museum, Metropolitan Museum New York and Petrie Museum on donkey beads created by cementation in faience, the team developed a body that could be 3D printed and then packed into a faience glaze material which, when fired in a sagger, produced a faience glazed ceramic artefact. The results when successful are very impressive producing brilliantly coloured glassy surfaces. It was discovered that there is a distinct size limitation to the process and that only small objects can be created. This is evidenced by the tiny Beetle car/Scarabs produced for the case study with artist Richard Slee. For the research into cementation, the 3D printing powder/binder process was used, the glazing material packed around the powder gives support during the firing and the required degree of glass formation in the firing was arrived at by careful testing and control of the glaze mixture and firing temperature. Firing trials were conducted and optimised by using a gradient kiln.

Glassy body. This was originally intended to be explored by the PhD student, but as the cementation body required a great deal of testing and experimentation. The student at her own request concentrated on cementation. In addition the team successfully produced a parian type body that was 3D printed by extrusion For this body a material based on plastic clays with a formulation containing a high level of ceramic fluxes and stains was used. During development various clay/flux ratios were tested to achieve a material that could be easily extruded, could by vitrified yet still have sufficient firing stability to maintain its shape.

The team collaborated with Dr Susannah Klein from Hewlett Packard Labs in Bristol to prove the potential of a 3D printed glass body. It was also found that the cementation process could be used to create a delicate glassy body with careful attention to firing temperature and regime.

A wide range of metal oxides, carbonates and associated compounds have been tested and used during the course of the project, the classic turquoise colour of Egyptian faience is reproduced in the efflorescence process by the addition of low percentages (less than 5%) of copper carbonate while a vibrant blue colour can be obtained by using low percentages of cobalt compounds. Green colours can be obtained by using chromium compounds at a similar percent addition and iron compounds will give a brown appearance.
Modern ceramic stains are available that will give a much wider colour pallet than the simple metal compounds with greater stability during firing. Tests have been conducted using these materials and have proved extremely effective in developing more varied and subtle colours with the efflorescence and application processes but less effective with the cementation process. This may be because of the increased stability of these materials. The cementation process depends on vapourisation and ion transfer to develop the colour and glaze surface and the more stable calcined stains will inhibit this action.
Ceramics based on both of these systems have the ability to be fired at much lower temperatures around 900 degrees Celcius, whereas for conventional modern ceramics temperatures of around 1050 degrees Celcius, and up to 1300 degrees Celcius are needed to develop a suitable glazed surface.
This property has been exploited to develop a system where small 3D printed forms can be fired in a microwave oven in minutes rather than hours. This process uses a "microwave kiln" that consists of a small refractory box in which the internal surface is coated with a microwave susceptor.
This coating absorbs the electromagnetic microwave radiation and converts it to heat which is re-emitted as infrared radiation, this rapidly heats the refractory box up to a temperature of around 900 degrees Celcius which fires and glazes the 3D printed faience ceramic body in minutes.
A selection of paste ceramic bodies have also been tested, researched and successfully developed to allow paste extrusion 3D printing to be used to form self-glazing ceramics based on the same ancient Egyptian techniques. These bodies have used the efflorescence glazing system to develop the glaze surface with the use of plastic clays and lignosulphate plasticisers to allow extrusion through a fine nozzle.
Exploitation Route The project has not only sparked interest with museums such as the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, but has led to greater industrial interest from Sibelco and Imarys, who are the largest ceramic materials companies in the world. The findings should lead to further research for the ceramic materials industry

There is potential to develop the process into a production process for bespoke jewellery and giftware, of particular interest is the ability to fire examples produced by the process in a domestic microwave in 10 to 15 minutes, this has considerable potential in the area of education or possibly home 3D printing in conjunction with a low cost extruder/printer.

The processes developed can be used to reproduce ancient Egyptian museum artefacts by scanning and 3D printing using the same glazing techniques as originally used. This give the ability to have a facsimile that can be handled and inspected by the public.

The ability of the process to form a glazed surface on a ceramic at low temperatures gives a significant reduction in firing costs, an area that has significant interest currently and is worthy of future development.

The results can be used by Artists and craftspeople who have knowledge of 3D printing.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Discussions have taken place on 15th September 2014 with the Digital Media and Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum, New York on printing amulets from the data from an MRI scan of a Mummy using the methods developed by Professor Stephen Hoskins and David Huson. Discussions have taken place (October 2014) with Zahed Taj-Eddin, researcher in archaeology at UCL, and the Petrie Museum on emerging results. Hoskins Delivered a keynote paper to the British Museum Research Group on 3D printing for the Arts and its potential for the museum sector Hoskins delivered a talk to joint research Councils council meeting at the request of Rick Rylance RCUK chair Hoskins and Huson undertook a 2 week residency at the Museum of Art and Design New York concurrent with the 'Out of Hand Exhibition to demonstrate the ability to 3D print demonstrate both types of 3D printed ceramic. 2 processes were demonstrated, a powder/binder process that uses an ink-jetted binder to print onto powder based ceramics materials, this is fired in the same manner as conventional ceramics, and a self-glazing once fired 3D printed ceramic process based upon ancient Egyptian Faience, the worlds first glazed ceramics from the fifth century BCE. The process demonstrated was an extrusion process that lays down a continuous bead of ceramic material, which can be fired in 10 to 15 minutes in a conventional microwave oven using a microwave kiln. Case studies into the use of the process with renowned ceramic artists Glenys Barton and Richard Slee have demonstrated that the methods and processes developed during the project bring a new perspective and fresh opportunities to ancient Egyptian ceramic glazing processes. PhD studentship tested an alternative form of 3D printed Faience fired by cementation. Many requests from ceramic industry companies have resulted in current discussions with Wedgwood, Imarys and Sibelco. Discussions have taken place with Shapeways and Imaterialise both 3D printing Bureau services. Developed a faience range for the UWE spin out Company Agillasys, also funded by the AHRC. Katie Vaughan was awarded PhD January 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description MAD Museum 
Organisation Education Department
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Professor Stephen Hoskins and David Huson undertook a 2 week fellowship at the Museum of Art and Design New York concurrent with the seminal exhibition 'Out of Hand' Artefacts were included in the exhibition created by CFPR
Collaborator Contribution Provided studio space, marketing and publicity.
Impact Collaboration with the Media Lab, Metropolitan Museum New York. Introduction to other American Museum curators and archivists. International publicity
Start Year 2014
Description Talk Campden BRI 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited talk on the potential of 3D printing for the food industry. The talk and subsequent debate took place at a working group of Food Industry directors and higher level research teams, at Campden BRI a food technology research centre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015